Platter, torque and pitch
The initial batch of TTX1s came with a groundbreaking 3.7kg of torque. This was soon surpassed by other decks and indeed, the newer TTXs boast 4.7kg of sustained torque, which of course in the race for supremacy has been beaten. But this is another Numark first in that the offers variable torque with 3 settings of 2.5, 3.7 and 4.7kg. These figures are for startup torque, dipping down to sustained torque figures 1.1, 2.7 and 3.7kg. It’s also worth pointing out that many manufacturers quoted figures are for startup torque so it’s probably worth looking past the PR hype and seeing what the real deal is. Easily changeable on the fly, there is a quite a noticeable difference, especially for those used to touching the platter to adjust while beatmatching. I’m not that fussy myself, but you now have the choice – and choice is good.
The TTX is capable of 33 and 45 plus 78 with the press of a couple of buttons. Normally I’d say 78 is a bit of a waste but the direct recording via USB does make it a more relevant archiving tool. And if you wish, you can spin in reverse as well.
Pitch range is 8, 10, 25 and 50%, so you Technics die-hards have your beloved tiny pitch range if you want it. Selecting pitch is simple – it’s an easy button press to cycle between 10, 25 and 50%, with a long button press needed to select 8%. The display does show 0.1% increments, but having an analog motor, it’ll be entirely linear rather than stepping.
While we’re talking pitch, the TTX comes with a strobe, one that switches depending on the platter speed selected. So unlike other decks with skin removing platters, the TTX has just one simple set of dimples. But the new TTX strobe has a nice ace up it’s sleeve – it’s been designed so that a flat mirrored surface is on the body so that you can see the static bump reflected back rather than having to look around the platter. And this new is considerably brighter as well – retina scorching in fact.
One last thing – because of the DSP in the belly of the TTX, some fancy audio magic can be performed – namely keylock is possible. This shouldn’t be underestimated as it has been a godsend when I’ve been trying to crack a juggle or just generally improve my speed. It can however only be applied to line level output, and like all other keylocked decks only has a practical range of around -15/+25% before breaking up too much. Still, it’s a useful thing to have nonetheless.
This DSP also means BPM can be counted and displayed. The displayed BPM also moves up and down with pitch adjustment, but to be honest isn’t that hot and seems to be easily confused by music that is less than heavy bass/snare 4-4 beats. Use as a guide only.
The TTX has always been ahead of the game in terms of output. All decks come with phono out but because of the DSP processing, a line level output has also been necessary. It’s the same output, just selectable with a switch. Things however have changed on the new TTX with the original SPDIF digital out being replaced by a USB port. I’d love for this to be some really cool advance in DVS systems (and who knows it might be eventually), but it does seem to be a simple audio out thing, but does now come with a gain control.
To convert USB into audio, The TTX uses a Burr-Brown DAC, which in audio circles is considered to be pretty hot. Using the supplied Audacity software, I converted the same track with line in and with USB and found no difference in audio quality, meaning that you can happily leave a USB lead plugged into your deck while still having the TTX plugged into your mixer. Being seen at system level as a valid USB input also meant I could use software other than the supplied Audacity for recording audio. I also used Roxio’s CD Spindoctor for testing as well with great results.
Normally you would look round the back for outputs on almost any product, but Numark have opted for putting the outputs on the underside of the TTX. In darkness this would be a problem but Numark have added an extremely useful blue LED (white in the original TTX1). I like it because everything is out of the way, protected from roaming hands and allows you to push the TTX up against your mixer. But it is slightly annoying though when trying to adjust the line/phono switch and the USB out gain.
A Unique Opportunity
There has always been a running battle between purists advocating S arms for life and the battling brethren who think that straight is great. So it strikes me that the TTX is a perfect and controlled platform to give the “s-arm sounds better” theory a test.
Let’s look at the setup – the same deck, same vinyl, same brand new Ortofon Thud Rumble needle – the only variant being the arm. Means I can record audio from the same setup except for the one thing we want to test – the tonearm’s effect on audio quality.
The first test I did was to set up a pair of TTXs with duplicate Ortofon spherical needled QBert concorde carts and vinyl but with different arms. I locked the beats and bounced the fader back and forth to see if I could hear a direct difference when played at the same time.
I listened through 2 sets of headphones, a set of expensive inner ear buds, some crappy speakers and finally a set of Tannoy speakers. Please forgive my old ears but I heard zero difference at all, at any volume through any listening medium. So it seemed like it was time to don the white coat and get scientific for a hot minute.
So I linked the TTX USB to my Powerbook to record the audio directly and then do a waveform comparison out the same audio played with different tonearms. What you see below is a 0.03 seconds worth of The House Of Pain’s “Jump Around” 12″ – straight arm waveform in red, S-arm in blue. And as you can see, they’re virtually identical bar a pixel shift here and there. I’m sure that if I recorded the same track twice on the same arms, I’d probably get the same minor variance in waveform as well.
Now this isn’t exactly the most scientific of tests but I hope that it shows that the audible difference between S and straight arms is more or less nothing on the same deck. This doesn’t mean it’s the same from deck to deck but from a relatively solid viewpoint, the basic premise of straight arms sounding worse seems to be less valid than people think. Needle and vinyl wear is however a whole different ball game and the accepted knowledge in that respect is probably true.
For a turntablist like myself, the TTX is a dream. Virtually unskippable straight arm, double on/off buttons, way more accessible pitch control and strong torque make using a TTX a near perfect experience. Being able to use keylock also makes for honing juggles just that little better as well. The 50% pitch range also allows for a greater range of audio trickery as well. But mix DJs will also benefit from this large arsenal of tool at their fingertips. While concessions have been made to make the TTX an amazing scratch decks, it’s for all styles of DJs.
The only think that slightly bothers me while spinning (and I’m reaching here to find anything wrong) is the platter has the tendency to not always stop dead when you hit the stop button. I guess the harsh stop has an opposite reaction and sometime moves backwards. So I always have to close the fader to cater for this. But I’m just being picky.
I also wish that the line/phono switch was easier to get to. Numark managed to put the power button on the top – it can’t be too hard to add that control to the top either, especially in these times of needing to always run phono for DVS systems. The USB port is a welcome replacement for the less than popular SPDIF port and adds a degree of extra functionality to the TTX.